Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Orleans - things we build don't last forever

As I mentioned in my first New Orleans post (New Orleans - that voodoo you do), this city would be one that I would periodically re-visit, due to the many facets of it that I would like to share.

The last time I was in New Orleans was May 2008. It was my 3rd time in the city, but first post-Katrina cleanup. Even though the event happened 2-1/2 years prior, I was sure that there would still be some reminders about it.

On this trip I was meeting my cousin, who was in town for a work conference, and then that weekend some friends of his were coming down for a bachelor party. Since I got there on a Thursday, that meant I had a lot of free time to explore on my own (this was pre-DB~!!).

I wanted to go off the beaten path and get "gritty" on this trip...feel like a resident of the city. So I crossed the river on the Canal Street Ferry (for free!) to Algiers, one of the working class neighborhoods of New Orleans. I was surprised by a few things in Algiers -- one was that some of the homes were gorgeous (pictured above) as they were painted bright colors and had a lot of "shiny extras" on them. This was also where one of the main hubs of Mardi Gras originates from, but I did not have time to take the tour of the warehouse. The second thing I learned was that Algiers got real shady, real quick once you got off the waterfront streets. There were a large amount of homes that still had the kiss of Katrina on them -- roofs collapsed, boards on windows, burned/charred remains. But this was what I wanted to see. The third thing I learned was that there are not a lot of places to eat on Algiers! I ate at a seafood/deli that had bars on the windows. Granted, the food was really good and honest, but that was a change-up.

The next morning was Friday and my cousin needed the morning for his conference, so I took the St. Charles Streetcar through the Garden District (plantation home above). I had no destination in mind, which is how good trips happen, so I rode the Streetcar to its terminus and got off. I walked around this end of the Garden District, which was nearly 100% back to itself, and found a great local diner. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of it, but it was a 50's style diner and the menu had a red rose on it. The waitstaff were extremely friendly and I ended up sitting at the counter with two girls from Buffalo who sort of wandered into this place too.

The title of this post "The Things We Build Don't Last Forever" is the title of an Ellen Goodman column. In it, she laments how in New England the stone walls that were erected hundreds of years ago eventually fall into disrepair. She compared that to a sad event that was happening in her then-current life. That column resonated with me because of a very sad event that happened in my life. I thought that, like New Orleans did with its levees, I had built something that would protect me and allow me to flourish for the rest of my life. For me, that was not true.

Recently, I've learned that sometimes you do get a second chance to rebuild and if you do it right, it can be better than before.

New Orleans -- you need to learn this lesson too.


  1. Dear Dale,

    You must mean the Cammellia Grill. It has great burgers. Its just where the Steetcar turns onto Carrollton.

    Go Saints, Go Pirates!

  2. Yes, that does sound familiar. It was fantastic. "Anonymous" are you a resident of New Orleans?

  3. Nothing lasts forever, but everything can be rebuilt in hopes that it lasts just takes a lot of time and mortar to do so.~